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This website is dedicated to promoting inclusive schooling and exploring positive ways of supporting students with autism and other disabilities. Most of my work involves collaborating with schools to create environments, lessons, and experiences that are inclusive, respectful, and accessible for all learners.

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Bolster Your Home Library

Posted on May 19, 2011 in Literacy

If you have paged though A Land We Can Share, you know that one of the recommendations we have for teachers is to work with families to learn how students interact with literacy materials at home. So often, parents of children with disabilities hold the knowledge teachers need to successfully teach reading and writing. In fact, in a study I did with Kelly Chandler-Olcott, we found that the mothers of students with autism often were successful at teaching their children with significant disabilities to read when teachers could not. In part, this seems due to the fact that the parents constantly looked for complexity. That is, we found that parents often picked on “small cues” of literacy that others may have missed (e.g., appearing to act out a story weeks after a parent has read it).

Another commonality we saw across these parents was a literacy-rich environment in the home. For this reason (and because we are just weeks away from summer vacation), I am going to share some ideas for bolstering your home library.

  • If you want your child to read, keep books in every space your child plays, works, and is easily bored. So work and play options might be your den, living room, or bedrooms. Places where your child is easily bored might be your car or even your purse so you can pull out reading material at the dentist or DMV. If your child cannot hold books easily, this might mean, having e-books on the computer, your phone, or maybe even “TV books” like Reading Rainbow DVDs.

  • Create spaces that are attractive and easy to access. If you have a bookshelf that is too overstuffed, it will be hard to access even by an older child. If you have baskets that are stored a bit too high, appealing titles may not be seen.

  • Place at least some of your child’s books in labeled, portable bins. For emerging readers, this will help them find favorite selections as they can look at book covers instead of at book spines. In addition, if the labels have pictures, even an emerging reader may be able to help with organization and clean up.

  • Be sure to stock a wide range of genres and types of books. Experts suggest that half of all classroom libraries contain informational texts and biographies. Parents may want to follow this trend and dedicate some space and dollars to balance a book collection at home. You might stock different sizes too. For instance, coffee table books are not often a part of a child’s library but are the perfect size for shared reading and learning new words and concepts. Because they typically have a lot of photos and few words, they are a nice age-appropriate choice for the older emerging reader.

  • Consider organizing books by genre, topic, or even shape/style. My girls love this task and will remind me when it is time for a new organizing system. Some of our current baskets are: I CAN READ, square/soft books, Golden Books, Rainbow Fairies, Cam Jansen, general chapter books, and Little House on the Prairie.

  • Have a child who likes to read something off the beaten path? Create a space for these reading materials too. I know one young man with autism who loves to read cookbooks and his mother keeps these grouped together near other beloved texts.

  • Finally, keep accessibility in mind. If your child has a hard time turning pages, try adding page fluffers. If he tears pages easily, put individual pages in pocket protectors. If your child is learning to read, use highlighter tape to cover key words. Have a little one who loves things that are tactile? Glue craft sticks, foam pieces, cotton balls, cloth, bits of string, or toothpicks on existing illustrations. (Better yet, see if your local scout troop or church group has service hours to fill and have them make some adapted materials for you!)

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